Notre Dame's Dara Mabrey clutch down the stretch in win against former team

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

Anthony Anderson
Tribune Correspondent

On a night that Dara Mabrey became the first-ever Notre Dame women’s basketball player to face her former team on the road, she made sure the return was a triumphant one as the Irish escaped with a 65-60 victory over Virginia Tech Thursday at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va.

Mabrey hit 4-of-4 free throws in the final 8.1 seconds, then clutched the closing rebound as ND won its season-high third straight game.

“For sure, she was,” teammate Destinee Walker said of whether Mabrey seemed more stoked than usual. “She started hot early, and I think the entire team wanted to get this win for her.”

Mabrey scored 14 points, dealt a team-high four assists and made two steals as the surging Irish (8-5, 6-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) won for the fifth time in their last six outings.

Walker led a balanced attack with 16 points off the bench, including 13 during a second quarter that was Notre Dame’s most dominant of the season at 27-9.

That came on the heels of a first period in which they were outscored 16-9 by the Hokies (7-6, 2-6), who were trying to avenge an 84-78 loss last month in South Bend.

“This was a tough road win and I’m very excited that this group found a way to win,” Irish coach Niele Ivey said. “Tonight I needed everybody, and everybody pulled through. … Just a lot of really good minutes from so many different people.”

Freshman Maddy Westbeld scored 13 points and grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds for ND, while Anaya Peoples added 11 points.

The Irish led by a high of 46-25 thanks to a 20-1 spree spanning the last four minutes of the first half and first three minutes of the third quarter.

ND was still up by 12 at 60-48 with 4:02 to go in the game, but unrelenting Tech went on a 10-0 spurt to get as close as 60-58 at 1:34 remaining.

At 11 seconds to go, however, Mikki Vaughn stole the ball from Hokie star center Elizabeth Kitley, who was trying to protect it from a double team, setting up the first of Mabrey’s final four free throws to clinch the game.

The Irish — wary, according to Ivey, of the Hokies’ 3-point proficiency this season (9.8 makes per game, 38.2% accuracy going in) and wanting to send double teams at Kitley — played almost exclusively man-to-man after playing almost exclusively zone over the last few games.

“I thought the team, for us not having played a lot of man-to-man this year, and not having such work last week, did a really good job of following the game plan,” Ivey said. “I thought it was effective today.”

Aisha Sheppard had game highs of 29 points and six assists for Tech in addition to leading the hosts’ fourth-quarter rally, but finished just 5-of-20 outside the arc. She entered the evening 45-of-116 for 38.8%.

Kitley added 15 points and 12 rebounds, but coughed up a game-high seven turnovers.

Notre Dame plays the second of five straight scheduled road games Sunday when it visits North Carolina (7-5, 2-5) for a noon tip.

NOTRE DAME 65, VIRGINIA TECH 60

At Blacksburg, Va.

NOTRE DAME (8-5): Westbeld 4-11 4-4 13, Vaughn 2-6 1-2 5, Mabrey 4-11 5-5 14, Peoples 4-8 3-5 11, Prohaska 0-5 1-3 1, Brunelle 2-5 0-0 5, Walker 6-18 0-0 16, Campbell 0-1 0-0 0, Hayes 0-0 0-0 0, Team 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 22-65 14-19 65

VIRGINIA TECH (7-6): Kitley 7-12 0-0 15, Amoore 1-10 0-0 3, Baines 1-3 1-2 3, King 2-10 2-4 8, Sheppard 8-26 8-11 29, Gregg 1-3 0-0 2, Obouh Fegue 0-0 0-0 0, Ennis 0-2 0-0 0, Green 0-0 0-0 0, Team 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 20-66 11-17 60

Notre Dame 9 27 17 12 — 65

Virginia Tech 16 9 16 19 — 60

3-Point Goals—Notre Dame 7-18 (Westbeld 1-2, Mabrey 1-3, Prohaska 0-1, Brunelle 1-3, Walker 4-9), Virginia Tech 9-39 (Kitley 1-1, Amoore 1-6, Baines 0-1, King 2-9, Sheppard 5-20, Gregg 0-1, Ennis 0-1). Assists—Notre Dame 9 (Mabrey 4), Virginia Tech 15 (Sheppard 6). Fouled Out—Virginia Tech Baines, Ennis. Rebounds—Notre Dame 44 (Prohaska 3-6), Virginia Tech 44 (Kitley 5-12). Total Fouls—Notre Dame 20, Virginia Tech 21. Technical Fouls—None. A—250.

Notre Dame Virginia Tech BasketballNotre Dame’s Maddy Westbeld, left, and Dara Mabrey (1) celebrate the team’s win over Virginia Tech in an NCAA in Blacksburg Va., Thursday night.